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Incumbent Buhari declared winner in Nigeria presidential vote

Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP | Presidential candidate and incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, flanked by his wife Aisha Buhari, speaks in Daura in Katsina State, Nigeria, on February 23, 2019.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari won a second term at the helm of Africa's largest economy and top oil producer, the electoral commission chairman said on Wednesday, following an election marred by delays, logistical glitches and violence.

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Buhari, in power since 2015, faced a tight election contest against the main opposition candidate - businessman and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

Buhari, 76, secured 56 percent of the vote, compared with 41 percent for Atiku, a candidate for the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Buhari faces a daunting to-do list, including reviving an economy still struggling to recover from a 2016 recession and quelling a decade-old Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of people in the northeast.

Addressing supporters at the campaign headquarters of his All Progressive Congress (APC) party in the capital Abuja, he promised increased efforts to tackle these issues.

"The new administration will intensify its efforts in security, restructuring the economy and fighting corruption," he said.

The president won by 3.9 million votes, having garnered 15.2 million to Atiku's 11.3 million.

The election turnout was 35.6 percent, the electoral commission said, which compared with 44 percent in the 2015 presidential election.

"Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, having satisfied the requirement of the law and scored the highest number of votes is hereby declared the winner," Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told election officials and reporters in the early hours of Wednesday.

A message on Buhari's Twitter feed late on Tuesday showed him smiling and surrounded by applauding staff at his campaign office.

"As a youth of Nigeria I believe this is the way forward for this country and for my generation and that is why we choose to bring him back for the second time," said Juwarat Abubakar, a Buhari supporter.

Opposition do not accept results

Osita Chidoka, a representative of the PDP and its defeated candidate Atiku, repeated the party's stance that it does not accept the election result.

"We will explore all options including the belief that the legal process in Nigeria is one of the ways to resolve issues," he said.

Buhari's party has said the opposition was trying to discredit the returns from Saturday's election.

Buhari: From military leader to elected president

The accusations have ratcheted up tensions in a country whose six decades of independence have been marked by long periods of military rule, coups and secessionist wars.

Observers from the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations appealed to all parties to await the official results, expected later this week, before filing complaints.

The candidate with the most votes nationwide is declared the winner as long as they have at least one-quarter of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states and the capital, Abuja.

Otherwise there is a second-round run-off. Buhari secured enough votes to meet both requirements.

Economy top of the agenda

Buhari, 76, took office in 2015 and sought a second term with pledges to fight corruption and overhaul Nigeria's creaking road and rail network.

Atiku, 72, had said he would aim to double the size of the economy to $900 billion by 2025, privatise the state oil company and expand the role of the private sector.

The biggest challenge facing Buhari is boosting an economy still struggling to recover from its first recession in 25 years, which it slipped into in 2016 as crude prices crashed and militants attacked energy facilities in the Niger Delta. Crude sales make up 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings.

"Instability is a rising concern but a weak economy is being felt in all sectors and country-wide so we believe it will be the preeminent voter concern," Benedict Craven, analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, told AFP.

Buhari's critics say his much-touted focus on rooting out corruption may be offset by his handling of the economy. Despite the president's campaign against graft, there have not been any significant convictions in his first term.

Nearly a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, much higher than when Buhari, a former military ruler who was later elected president, took over in 2015. The cost of living has also risen rapidly, with inflation of 11.37 percent in January - just short of a seven-month high reached the previous month.

Poll marred by deadly violence

Voting took place after a week-long delay which the election commission said was due to its inability to get ballots and results sheets to all parts of the country.

The event - Africa's largest democratic exercise - was also marred by violence with at least 47 people killed since Saturday, according to the Situation Room, a monitoring organisation linking various civil society groups.

Reporting from Lagos on Saturday, FRANCE 24’s Anna Cunningham said people arriving in the city to vote had told her there were multiple checkpoints manned by the military. “The interesting thing is that it is actually the duty of the police to do security during elections. The rule is, should measures be needed, then they can call in the military. However we are seeing military checkpoints across cities today,” said Cunningham.

Some deaths resulted from clashes between groups allied to the leading parties and the police over the theft of ballot boxes and allegations of vote fraud. Police have not yet provided official casualty figures.

More than 260 people have been killed since the start of the election campaign in October.

The toll so far is lower than in earlier elections, but the worst violence occurred previously only after results were announced.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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